The Library and Information Association of NZ sees a role for libraries in allowing citizens without computers to access “e-government” sites and other valuable online resources.
The association, also known as Lianza, was pushing for a “national information strategy” from government at its conference earlier this month in Christchurch. It believes everyone should have access free of charge to a restricted range of websites with useful and reputable information.
Lianza president John Redmayne says many libraries provide free internet access, but some rural libraries are insufficiently funded and either cannot afford to provide an internet service or have to charge users for access.
Better funding is important but not the only issue. “We would like to see some grants [from central government and/or local authorities] to smaller communities, where it is difficult for people to get access to the internet using their own resources,” Redmayne says. But the association is also asking for an appropriate attitude from government to the challenge of on-line access.
“I’m not sure how much the e-government people have thought about that question of end-user access.”
Would library internet access be useful to someone living on an isolated farm? Most farmers come into the nearest town at some time to purchase supplies and do other business, he says, and even the smallest towns have a public library. “It’s a very extensive network,” he says.
For the libraries to select “appropriate” websites to which they would provide free access is simply an extension of what they do now in selecting books and periodicals for their print collections, Redmayne says.
Another element in the equation is the inculcation of skills to interpret information gained online. On that front, “we are talking to people in the Ministry of Education” which already has initiatives of this kind under development.